A balance training guide for seniors, older adults, and their family members. Learn what conditions affect balance and coordination, ways to identify a fall risk, and how physical therapy can improve everything from stability to sensory orientation.
Improve Balance and Coordination At Physical Therapy
Balance and coordination tend to decline as a person ages. Luckily there are things you can do to improve balance, reduce fall risks, and improve the overall quality of life. Being physically active is always a great first step when it comes to improving your overall health. It can also be necessary to seek specialized care for a custom balance training program as health declines.
Balanced Physical Therapy helps senior and older adult patients improve balance, control and coordination. Patients are less likely to fall and suffer from injuries when they have
- Increased Overall Independence
- Reduce Fear of Falling
- Improved Coordination
- Faster reaction Time
- Stronger Bones
- Increase Walking Speed
- Improved Muscular Function
- Improved Cognitive Function
Seniors and older adults often experience a decline in motor and cognitive functions. Balance is strongly affected and daily activities such as cleaning, exercising, and getting dressed can become more difficult in a short time.
What conditions affect balance in seniors and older adults?
The American Family Physician attributes gait and balance disorders to seven different types of medical conditions including:
Affective Disorder and Psychiatric Conditions
- Fear of Falling
- Sleep Disorders
- Substance Abuse
- Orthostatic Hypotension
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
Infectious and Metabolic Diseases
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Hyper and Hypothyroidism
- HIV-associated neuropathy
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
- Muscle Weakness and Atrophy
- Podiatric Conditions
- Cervical Spondylosis
- Parkinson Disease
- Vestibular Disorders
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Hearing Impairment
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Visual Impairment
- Other Acute Medical Conditions
- Recent Hospitalization
- Recent Surgery
How To Know If Someone Is a Fall Risk
A person who is a fall risk can often show signs and symptoms before having an accident. The best way to keep track of age-related balance issues is to be consistent and active when going for yearly checkups. It is extremely important to always report falls and near falls to your physician. Your primary care physician can help monitor your overall health and identify fall risks as they present themselves.
In addition to seeing your primary care physician on a regularly, it can be useful to know and watch out for some common signs of a balance deficit among friends and family. These include
- A person having a difficult time getting up from a chair. This can indicate a weakness in the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, or hips.
- A person who has a difficult time walking. Someone who tends to reach out for support on furniture or walls.
- Near falls or someone who would have fallen if they had not caught themselves.
- Someone taking pain medication or sleep aids. Some medications can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and balance issues.
- Dizziness when standing up from a sitting or laying position.
- Foot, knee, or hip pain that leads to an abnormal or shuffling type of walk.
Why Balance Training Is Important
People that fall once, have double the chance to fall again. Studies show that one out of five falls causes seniors injuries such as broken bones or head injuries. These falls can lead to long periods of pain, lower quality of life, disability, or even death.
Balance training under the supervision of a physical therapist is a way to promote better overall health in a safe environment. A physical therapist can help improve balance and decrease your risk of falling by implementing a training program specific to your needs.
Patients can reverse the effects of physical inactivity and overcome the fear of falling. Patients can also benefit from additional education as well as emotional support from a healthcare professional.
Physical Therapy Program for Balance and Coordination
Patients who are unsure if they require specialized balance training should consult with their primary care physician. Your doctor can prescribe physical therapy to help improve balance and coordination.
Once prescribed, your physical therapy program will always begin with an evaluation. A physical therapist will conduct a fall-risk assessment to better understand risk factors such as vision, mobility, transfers, daily activities, environment, and nutrition. Patients can also ask questions, discuss their goals, and express any concerns during the assessment.
Based on your current health your therapist will create a balance training program that is fit for your needs. Our therapists are experienced in modifying most therapy techniques to best suit your condition and to properly challenge you on a day-to-day basis.
Exercises For Balance Training
Physical Therapy exercises can be targeted to a specific physiological system or combine multiple systems to better simulate real-life activities. Certain parts of the balance training program will be geared towards motor function while other parts will focus more on cognitive improvements. Examples of these include
- Increase stability limits
- Improve anticipatory postural adjustments
- Improve postural responses
- Improve sensory orientation
- Improve stability in gait
Therapy sessions normally last about an hour and begin with a warm-up such as riding a bike, marching in place, or stretching. After warming up patients often train using therapy balls, uneven surfaces, body weight, and resistance training. A therapy session will conclude with stretching, massage, and a cool-down period. Not every appointment will be the same, in fact, they often differ to properly progress while keeping things interesting and fun.
At Balanced Physical Therapy, we pride ourselves on providing every patient with the expertise they deserve. Each patient is treated by a DPT for their entire session, avoiding any issues that may arise when working with assistants or techs. Your therapist will always be by your side and we encourage all our patients to ask questions and issue any concerns whenever at any point of your appointment.